Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Camp Power

Once upon a time I read about a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generating plant that was built in the Soviet Union.

A MHD generator generates electricity directly from a flame. No engine, no boiler, no intermediate steps at all. Basically you have a couple of wire mesh grids in the path of a flame and you connect wires to these grids and you get electricity. Of course the grids are probably made of platinum or some other exotic substance, and the efficiency is not all that great, but you can't make a simpler machine.

I think a small generator like this would be a great power source for all sorts of remote locations, like our monitoring sites. It would also be great for campers and explorers, anyone who wants electricity where there isn't any other supply. Batteries, as demonstrated by our rooftop station this weekend, go bad.

I was thinking that one should be able to build a miniature MHD generator that would run on propane. Use it to generate electricity in remote locations to run radios. No batteries needed. As long as you have fuel, you have juice. Sell it to backpackers. Use it anyplace where you need a small amount of power, and you don't have, or don't want wires, and you don't want a big noisy generator set. I'm sure there would be a market for it if it could be built.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Neutron Propulsion

My big idea this morning is to use radioactive materials for propulsion for interstellar probes. (some?) Radioactive materials produce high velocity neutrons. Put your radioactive material in a heavy pot. Point the opening in the pot opposite the way you want to go. Thrust would be very low, but very long lasting. Don't need to worry about radiation, space is full of it. Just need heavy shielding in the pot to protect the rest of the spacecraft.